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Dolls' Houses
Past & Present

A website and ezine about dolls' houses: antique, vintage and modern.
Plus furniture and accessories.

Issue 13 (May 2012)

Caco dolls and the Scenotest

by die Puppenstubensammlerin

"A Practical Technique for Understanding Unconscious Problems and Personality Structure."

In 1938 a German child psychologist had the idea of giving her little patients the opportunity to portray all important persons in their lives and to have them "play out" the family constellations on a miniature scale.

A 1950s Scenotest box, with kind permission of the ebay.de seller

The basis of the material was a number of bendable figures that could represent the persons in a subject's life:

A 1950s Scenotest set, with kind permission of the ebay.de seller

Illustration from the 1964 edition of Der Sceno-test

Grandfather (also teacher, uncle, pastor), grandmother, and modern adults in various clothes as well as children from baby to school child. Von Staabs sold the therapeutic kit including the dolls herself and never gave the name of the dolls' manufacturer:

Canzler and Hoffmann (pre-war) or Fritz Canzler (postwar),

the famous Caho or Caco dolls.

A 1950s Scenotest set, with kind permission of the ebay.de seller

Another 1950s Sceno-test set, above, in its box, and below, the dolls laid out. With kind permission of the ebay.de seller.

In each new edition of her book the dolls in the depicted scenes changed according to the current range of Caco dolls.

The housemaid directs a choir:

1951

1964

1991

A maid and doctor from a 1960s Sceno-test set, with kind permission of the ebay.de seller

A ghost appears:

1951

1964

1991

Boy and mother riding a dog:

1951

1964

Mothers and fathers from a 1960s Scenotest set, with kind permission of the ebay.de seller

Crossing an unstable bridge:

1951

1964

Little girl from a ca 1960s Sceno-test set,

with kind permission of the ebay.de seller

Some other scenes:

Father on father is a very big father

Father at a school desk

Housemaid drags a cart, and triplets' birthday

Running from a collapsed building

You can still buy the book today:

http://www.hogrefe.de/programm/scenotest.html?catId=7

The publisher describes the test thus:

“The Scenotest has been widely used in Europe for over 50 years to help very quickly assess emotional problems in children. It is a projective instrument employed for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes to gain insight into matters that the patient may consciously be withholding, or may not be able to express, due to emotional or physical abuse, or for other complex reasons.

The Scenotest belongs to the standard repertoire of psychologists and psychiatrists concerned with the assessment and treatment of children and adolescents: in forensic medicine, in therapy or in the school system. The many thousands of sets sold and used are witness to its success in this difficult field. The standardized material of this test procedure is composed of flexible human figures, bendable in all joints, and a carefully chosen set of accessories: animals, trees, symbolic figures and items from everyday life. The Scenotest arouses the natural desire to play, reveals unconscious thoughts in a nonstressful way, and the many figures offer patients the opportunity to relive their own experiences.“

The publisher neglects to mention that the scientific reliability of projective tests is debated, as explained on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Projective test

In psychology, a projective test is a personality test designed to let a person respond to ambiguous stimuli, presumably revealing hidden emotions and internal conflicts. This is different from an "objective test" in which responses are analyzed according to a universal standard (for example, a multiple choice exam).

A close-up of two Caco ladies from a 1950s set, with kind permission of the ebay.de seller

The complete set is quite expensive, even for doctors. (They rarely appear on ebay but lately there were at least three on German ebay, never being bought under 400 Euro and sometimes up to 600 Euro.)

Perhaps partly due to the cost, and also because less lifelike dolls are more appropriate for use with some children (eg those with autism spectrum disorders), some psychologists have also used other dolls house dolls, like Playmobil and Fisher Price Little People, for similar purposes.

Dolls and a selection of materials, as illustrated in the 1951 edition

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